Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
Sam Taylor-Wood seems to have a connection with John Lennon. As a fine art photographer, she appropriated the famous Leibovitz Lennon / Yoko Ono cover in Rolling Stone magazine. During filming of "Nowhere Boy", the new biopic of young John Lennon, it is reported that Taylor-Wood thought of pulling out of the project, but as she went to her car, the Lennon song "Starting Over" abruptly played on the radio. Wood saw it as a sign.
From the start,"Nowhere Boy" has a vivid nostalgic feeling. John the Kid is late for class and his running frenzy is re-created in a direct imitation of the chaotic camerawork in "A Hard Day's Night. There is an immediate thrill that you get from seeing newcomer Aaron Johnson as a teenage Lennon. The physical resemblance is startling. And the cinematography detailing the first beats of what would become The Beatles has an oddly curious Steven Spielberg echo. The film can be seen as an innocent and unpretentious "Back to The Future" for rock and roll.
As John rides his wobbly bicycle down crooked brick lanes we catch a glimpse of a leafy green sign. Aha! There's Strawberry Fields! Through the windows of the quaint looking motorcars and cottages one can almost hear the opening trumpets of "Penny Lane". With his oversize round glasses, school uniform and smirking grin, Lennon appears as a kind of Harry Potter imagined by Elvis Presley as he is plagued by dreams of his absent mother in a shocking red dress. After repeated haunting visions of an ocean and fighting parents, John plays hooky from his stern Aunt Mimi (Kristen Scott Thomas) and seeks his scofflaw mom.
His mother, Julia, (Anne-Marie Duff) is bohemian with a playful sensuality in contrast to the strict schoolmarmish aunt. Indeed Lennon's mother is also a bit incestuous with him: she lies on top of the boy provocatively as they sit together on the sofa. The tension is clear. Young John takes guitar lessons from his wild Mum, but his aunt will have none of it. She proceeds to tell Kid Lennon that his mom was a unstable floozy that deliberately abandoned him and was institutionalized. John becomes an Angry Young Man--a kind of rockabilly hybrid of John Osborne and Buddy Holly. He is moody and mercurial, shuffled in affection from aunt to mother. Even the spirit of James Dean is present. When he walks through the streets of Liverpool we suddenly see that all the guys are styled after "Rebel Without a Cause". John transforms into a flippant and sarcastic almost-adult.
A teenage Paul comes on the scene in a white suit with a pink carnation in his lapel, looking like a Pinnochio Dandy. Righto! Despite his odd appearance among the toughs, Paul emerges as the most practical. As he says, "It's all just music." The film does not pull punches despite its nostalgic tone. In one scene John gets into a fistfight with Paul during his mother's funeral. They both return with bloody mouths, savagely soiling their
preppy attire. In that moment, the youngsters could be easily mistaken for "Clockwork Orange" thugs rather than the feel-good British rockers that they became.
Before John goes off to Hamburg to find fame, there are closeups of John smoking while smoke pours from his nose and mouth under a bright blue sky perhaps foretelling of his later hookah smoking in India, his
playful Surrealism and his periodic withdrawal from public life.
There are other interesting details: early Lennon drawings are shown: quirky beasts, that inspire Yellow Submarinean thoughts. And when John first learns the guitar, the film is sped up in a more obvious homage
to "A Clockwork Orange".
From anger and hurt feelings, from remorse and revolution in music, shot with style and substance, this film narrates the somewhere path from wounded kid to world music icon.